>These next two made-up awards will be given to the pitchers on either end of the hitting spectrum. First up, the Dean Chance award, given to the pitcher who displays exceptionally poor hitting. Dean Chance, the 1964 Cy Young Award winner, compiled a career 128-115 mark with an ERA of 2.92. Those numbers look absurd now, but it should be mentioned that Chance did most of his pitching off the high mounds of the 1960’s, so while his 3.08 ERA in 1966 would place him fourth among the leaders of the 2009 AL, behind Greinke, Hernandez, and Halladay, the collective 1966 American League had a 3.89 ERA, placing the entire group 15th, just a hair behind Josh Beckett. So the times apparently have changed a bit.
But of course, this award had nothing to do with anyone’s pitching abilities, other than the fact the eligible players must be pitchers. The award is named after Chance because he was an awful hitter, maybe the worst to ever wield a bat in the Major Leagues (warning: hyperbole). For his career, he put up this beautifully minimalistic .066/.113/.069 line. He had two career hits go for extra bases, both doubles. In 1966, he managed just 2 hits in 76 at-bats, striking out 54 times, walking three times and getting hit by one pitch, which adds up to a slash line of .026/.075/.026. So yeah, he was bad.
The 2009 winner of the Dean Chance award is: Ross Ohlendorf, Pirates.
Ohlendorf posted a .068/.083/.068 line in 59 ABs for the Pirates, which is actually somehow worse than Chance’s career line. Ohlendorf managed no extra base hits, one walk, and grounded into three double-plays, while only successfully sac-bunting four times (Note to John Russell: maybe just tell slugger to strike out on purpose from now on). He struck out in 39% of his plate appearances, and had an unbelievable 85% groundball rate (this may explain the double-plays). According to Fangraphs WAR, he managed to undo all of his pitching value with his horrible batting, making him a replacement-level player (read: bad). He was that terrible with the bat.
Now, onto the Bob Caruthers award for the best hitting pitcher. In 1886, Caruthers went 30-14 on the mound with a 2.32 ERA, and also led the American Association with an OPS of .974. He led the league/association/whatever in wins twice, winning percentage three times, and ERA once, all while putting up a career batting line of .282/.391/.400. I should mention that Caruthers was apparently stuck out in rightfield on the days he didn’t pitch, so he is really a pitcher in name only, but I didn’t feel like calling this the Babe Ruth award because that’s lame, so it’s the Bob Caruthers award.
The 2009 winner of the Bob Caruthers award: Micah Owings, Reds.
Micah Owings is at this point better known for his hitting than his pitching (7-12, 5.34, 18 HR allowed in 119.2 IP), but he still knows how to handle a bat. Dusty Baker will occasionally use Owings as a pinch hitter, and unlike most things Dusty Baker does, he had good reason to. Owings slugged .537 this year, exactly the same as Carlos Pena and Jason “Pasty” Bay (his career slugging percentage is actually higher, .547). He mashed 8 extrabase hits in just 54 at-bats, including 3 HR. Again, looking at Fangraphs’ WAR, Owings was a sub-replacement level pitcher (read: really bad), but was able to make up for most of the damage with his bat, making him roughly equivalent in value to Mr. Ohlendorf. So I guess pitcher hitting does matter, if only a tiny bit.
More awards to come . . .